Preventing falls in old age

FALL PROPHYLAXIS

Most accidents occur in the very place where people feel particularly safe and secure: at home. It is often everyday things such as carpet edges, cables lying around or inadequate lighting that lead to a fall. The risk of falling also increases with age, especially when your eyesight and muscle strength deteriorate and you lose your balance more easily. Even small obstacles in the home can then become dangerous tripping hazards. Falls and their consequences often lead to the need for care. This makes it all the more important to take preventative measures to reduce the risk of falling in the long term.

MAKING YOUR OWN HOME SAFE

It is essential to remove all tripping hazards in your home. Walk from room to room with a critical eye and check whether there are any objects in the way. In many cases, it only takes minimal effort to ensure safe walking routes. Slippery carpets should either be removed or at least secured with anti-slip mats. Adequate lighting throughout the home is particularly important. A night light with a motion detector can be very helpful in the dark so that you don't have to feel your way blindly. 

Minimising the risk of falling within your own four walls depends on your individual circumstances. Stairs can often be the biggest obstacle. For example, carpet tiles or rubber strips can be firmly glued to the steps to reduce the risk of slipping. Railings and handrails should also be accessible and easy to grip from the first to the last step. This is the only way you can hold on securely throughout the entire ascent and descent. Major modifications may also be necessary to make your home barrier-free. If you already find climbing stairs so difficult that it becomes an insurmountable obstacle, installing a stairlift can be a sensible solution.

Older people should also be safe when travelling outside their own four walls, as tripping hazards lurk everywhere. Regular training can help to reduce the risk of falling, be it when cycling or using public transport.

HEALTH TIPS FOR FALL PREVENTION

It is possible to prevent falls in old age through targeted training such as physiotherapy or physical training to compensate for physical deficits. It is advisable to have the risk of falling checked by a doctor at an early stage and to discuss ways of preventing falls together. Among other things, your doctor will carry out tests on your gait and motor skills, such as walking or standing on a line, standing up and sitting down quickly and walking back and forth quickly. Your medication intake will also be checked, as some drugs can cause dizziness or impair gait stability as a side effect or in combination with other medications. Regular training can strengthen your body stability and improve your coordination, balance and reaction speed.

A regular visit to the doctor with health checks is useful in order to identify and treat possible illnesses at an early stage and to discuss the optimum training programme. A healthy lifestyle, physical fitness and preventative healthcare can reduce some age-related changes and illnesses. Muscles can be built up well into old age, so it is worth working on your mobility and fitness throughout your life. To ensure that you achieve optimum training effects and do not overexert yourself, your training must be adapted to your current physical capacity and state of health. It is therefore advisable that you first train under the guidance and supervision of a qualified trainer. This will help you to avoid injuries. Many sports clubs and fitness centres offer special programmes for senior citizens. 

POSSIBLE CONSEQUENCES OF FALLS

Bruises, grazes and minor bruises are among the more harmless injuries after a fall. They are painful and can impair mobility in the short term, but usually heal without permanent damage. However, an already fragile state of health can be further worsened by the consequences of a fall accident. In older people, the likelihood of fractures increases due to the age-related reduction in bone density. Fractures are particularly common in the wrist, upper arm and hip joint. A femoral neck fracture is by far the most common bone fracture treated in hospital, with serious consequences. Due to slower healing processes in old age, a fracture can result in long-term restrictions and complications. This can unexpectedly prolong hospitalisation and delay the recovery of mobility. It is not uncommon for a fall accident to lead to a short-term or permanent need for care. In such cases, assistance with household chores, shopping, dressing and personal hygiene may be necessary. In order to receive benefits from long-term care insurance, insured persons must apply for a care degree.

In addition to physical impairments, falls can also cause psychological stress that is less obvious. Older fall patients in particular often lose their self-confidence, which can lead to a vicious circle. After a fall, there is often a fear of falling again, which makes movements more uncertain and some even avoid walking. They find it difficult to regain their previous mobility, limit their activities and withdraw. The lack of movement in turn leads to muscle loss, a diminished sense of balance and even more insecurity, which increases the risk of further falls. Every new fall increases the fear of falling. People often even consider moving to a flat at ground level for fear of falling down the stairs. 

However, a move is not absolutely necessary. By installing a stairlift, you can contribute to fall prevention and your own safety while remaining in your familiar surroundings.

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